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Passion, People and Principles

Non-Financial Currencies

post # 287 — January 18, 2007 — a Managing post

What do you do if you’re the boss of a group, and someone within it has done well, but you can’t give them a raise? What other “non-financial currencies” are particularly effective?

Commonly listed non-financial currencies would be these:

  1. Approval (Well Done)
  2. Gratitude (Thank you)
  3. Autonomy (Extra degrees of freedom to operate that others in the group do not have)
  4. Recognition (in front of others)
  5. Visibility (to others inside and outside the office)
  6. Contacts (to key people)
  7. Access to Information (Becoming more of an Insider)
  8. Access to additional resources
  9. Rapid response (by manager, even faster than to rest of the team)
  10. Task support (more resources)
  11. Titles (Official and Unofficial)
  12. Special roles or assignments
  13. Extra Challenges
  14. Access to Participation / Involvement in hi-status tasks
  15. Personal Interest / Support

Is it possible to say which of these are the best to use? Are some of them dangerous? What categories do you see?


Bob McIlree said:

How about an excellent professional reference for their next position…just kidding…sort of…

A number of these are dangerous from a management and political perspective because the manager could be seen as playing ‘favorites’ by the rest of his reports. In particular, I think that 3,7,8,9, and 14 have this characteristic.

In the past I have tended to give stellar performers difficult and challenging assignments that I knew would be problematic for other people in my organization. I viewed this simply as good business and not favoritism – but at times it was not construed that way by others on my team. Once the latter happens or is perceived, it is difficult to rectify. Which is why I find some of the items on the list problematic from leadership and management perspectives.

posted on January 18, 2007

Ann said:

I was comfortable with #1 through #4; in fact, one of the issues I often face with my clients is that they are unwilling/unable to provide these very basic and yet very powerful currencies. Rationalizations that I’ve heard for this include “I don’t want it to go to his/her head” and “I don’t want to leave the impression that there’s no room for improvement”. As if a simple, sincere expression of gratitude or approval will ruin an otherwise competent employees.

From #5 on, I feel mixed degrees of danger, and I agree with Bob’s comments above. And, as a compensation consultant, I’ve spent way too much time sorting through the aftermath of #11, trying to figure out who is actually doing what, to support that option …

posted on January 18, 2007

S. Anthony Iannarino said:

Another thought-provoking post. I have to humbly disagree with the dissenters here. In Bob’s case, you have to give the challenging assignments to those are best suited for them. Who else would you give them to? Not someone who you knew would fail.

I would challenge the dissenters here only because many of these non-financial currencies are being used by successful managers. Are some problematic? Sure. But what form of reward doesn’t come with the same risks?

posted on January 22, 2007

Mark Shead said:

What about additional education? It won’t work for everyone, but there are a lot of people who would be very motivated by giving them extra training.

I was once working for an employer where I was really the only one pursuing any educational opportunities, so I was able to get more than my fair share of the educational budget. In addition to helping me become better at my job, it kept me working there for a few extra years before I decided to move on.

This worked out great for me because the politics of the organization only looked at my salary, so no one was complaining about how much I was being paid (the pay check was pretty low). However I was looking at the total value of the education as well as the flexibility of getting time off when I needed it.

posted on January 23, 2007